18 August 2013
MORE WINES THAT END IN O
Oliver's Taranga Vineyards McLaren Vale Fiano 2013
$24; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points
I always thought it strange that when the Champenoise went nuts and had us pass laws to outlaw our use of their name they let the Italians get away with Campania, which means champagne. Or broad open countryside, which we happen to have a lot more of than either France or Italy. Anyway, the Italian champagne, er, Campania, also known as the buckle on Italy's boot, has given us Fiano, a tough workaday white grape that suits Australia particularly well because it ends in O. We suddenly love varieties that end in O. It's a surly, thick-skinned, small-berried, low-yielding grump of a grape that enjoys a mystical symbiosis with hazelnut trees; the two are often co-planted, as in Viognier's long-time symbiosis with apricot trees. This wine, from Don Oliver's delightful stretch of campania on Seaview Road, McLaren Vale, does not smell particularly of hazelnut. It smells a little greasy, like an avocado which has just been hit with the lemon juice. Its texture is fluffy as much as avocado-buttery, and its acid fairly gentle. I don't recall ever eating avocado with woodfired prawns and scallops, but this wine makes me think a lot about how I could conjure something like that for lunch.
Oliver's Taranga Vineyards McLaren Vale Vermentino 2013
$24; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 85 points
Vermentino grows slow and late in Sardinia, Liguria, Corsica, Piedmont and Provence. It has various names, and seems to love living by the sea. This one, from Seaview Road, beside the Gulf St Vincent, patron of vine-dressers, smells thick, like Macadamia oil, lemon and avocado. It's soft and fluffy in the mouth, and big and blousy of demeanour, with very little acid. So regard it like a big, hearty Grenache/Shiraz blend from a hot year, but a white one. I reckon many would think it was a red if it were served in a black glass. This is more about texture than your actual flavour: I think the flavours are white, while this chubby texture is more commonly found in reds. It would probably harmonise with the fatty nature of crayfish, but might be better served where it plays counterpoint to something like the hard verbena lemon and ginger chilli of Thai tucker. I can't see it becoming the blue-eyed Jesus of McLaren Vale whites, not like Savvy-B is to Marlborough, but it's an interesting sideline in this form. I can't help wondering how it would look if it were picked earlier. You could be forgiven for thinking this one's more fourteen than twelve.
Dowie Doole McLaren Vale Vermentino 2013
$25; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
While this wine's half an alcohol higher than the Taranga, it's a leaner, meaner version of the same grape - so different in form you'd never think it was the same fruit. This one smells of acrid hemp and peppery burlap, with only the slightest hint of the chubby puppy fat of the Taranga. It still has that unusual reek of fresh unsalted Macadamia, but it's tied up tight with all that hessian ... the palate too is more focused and precise, more of the blonde shrink with the steel trap brain than the cuddly caring Taranga. Which is not to say it's as razor sharp as Eden Riesling or Marlborough Savvy-B. It still has some comforting form. I'd be tipping it on some delicate veal and lemon dish with capers and chopped spinach on the side. Or char-grilled garfish. Anything Duncan recommends at Amalfi. Get one of each of these three, two mates, a well-laden table, and let me know how you go. I find all this really fascinatingo.